Taste of Vietnam

You must have noticed that we are not posting daily trip updates anymore. Like Brandon said in the previous post, things have slowed down for us, we’re not out running around all day, everyday. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

My cousin Bê and I went on errands to take care of wedding stuff. These are the some of decorations that will adorn her house during the ceremony.

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We had a co-ed bachelor/bachelorette’s party for the happy couple last Saturday. We went out to dinner then to a crowded lounge, which we promptly left, and ended up at a very “white” bar called Allez Boo. 171    154177

On Sunday I took the soon to be married couple to get belated engagement pictures. This area is newly developed and is extremely popular with photographers. There were at least 5 other couples in wedding garb having pictures taken. I will do a separate post on the pictures I took that day.

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After Sunday, Brandon and I were left to our own devices since everyone had to go to work. So for the next few days we toured downtown Saigon, popped over to my old neighborhood, got a couple’s massage (I also got another shampoo!), and went on a guided tour to the Cao Đài temple and Củ Chi tunnels (pics coming in a later post). We also squeezed in visits to some of my relatives, friends, and former neighbors while managing to eat dinner at my aunt’s house almost every night.

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The Saigon river
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Notre Dame Cathedral
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Independence Palace

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Financial Tower
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Misou's childhood home, which has been completely rebuilt on the outside.
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Misou's old high school
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Misou's aunt's house, looking out.
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Misou's aunt's house, looking inside.

Now, onto the good part. Below are pictures of the meals we ate since we’ve been here. Warning: may induce sudden hunger and/or copious amount of drooling.

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Bột chiên, baked and then fried turnip flour, and coffee for breakfast.

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– Having a snacks in the market: chạo tôm, grilled shrimp paste on sugar cane stalk, gỏi cuốn, spring rolls, and nước mía, sugar cane juice.

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– We sampled different chè, a variety of Vietnamese desserts.

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– This was Misou’s favorite place to get kem (ice cream) as a kid. It still exists in its original location.

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hoành thánh, egg noodle soup with meatballs for dinner.

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– The two versions of hủ tiếu cooked by a Cambodian chef, dried and with broth.

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– Bê and her fiancé, Minh, took us to a great pretty restaurant called A Bửu for dinner one night. They serve traditional food but with a twist. For example, we had corn stir-fried with butter and little dried shrimp. Other dishes included conch, squid, and fish with bellies full of roe.

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– Rice with ribs cooked in lemongrass, bowl of bún bò Huế, and rice with tofu and meat stir-fry. Brandon, Bê, and I had these for breakfast one morning.

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– We ordered french fries and cream sodas at an interesting American restaurant called NYDC. I’m a little alarmed that Vietnamese people are starting to munch on french fries as a snack!

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– An extremely popular phở restaurant. Check out the giant pots they cook the broth in every day!

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– These are typical traditional Vietnamese meals, rice with a few entrées and a bowl of soup. The top row shows all vegetarian food that is made to taste like meat! Brandon also tasted for the first time vú sữa, a sweet, milk-like fruit called star apple for dessert.

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– Broken rice, cơm tấm, with pork is a popular breakfast dish.

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– Brandon on the side of the road eating bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) like a local!

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– We stumbled upon this lady selling bánh tráng kẹp dừa, a disappearing Vietnamese special treat. So naturally I had to get some for us. It is fresh grated coconut and candied sugar folded in crispy rice paper sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Bi Mỹ’s Post Script:

I’ve been taking a lot more pictures lately (which will appear in later posts). After two days of asking Misou, “Did you get a shot of that?” and hearing, “No … why?” I began to realize that most of the interesting sights and sounds here are familiar to her, and are therefore not noteworthy. So as the representative white person who grew up entirely in the US, I commandeered the camera and started snapping shots of people on the streets, Communist posters, and such. I’m still trying to get the perfect shot of a baby on a motorcycle, though. (Almost got one yesterday out the bus window on the trip back from Củ Chi, but the baby was going way too fast.)

While we were in Tokyo, I said something to Misou about how I was disappointed by how average-looking most Japanese girls are. The next day in Shibuya, Misou kept pointing at girls on the street: “Is that one there pretty? … How about her, is she hot?” Much to my surprise, I found myself answering “Eh, she’s all right” a good 90% of the time. Here in Saigon though, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a beautiful woman. I don’t suggest doing this, though. She might fall off her Yamaha and cause a 200-motorcycle pile-up … not to mention what might happen to the baby.

This entire trip I’ve been enjoying exploring two new languages: Japanese and Vietnamese. The Japanese seemed mildly appreciative of our attempts to order in their language—we got some laughs out of the chefs at Kyubei, for example. But the Vietnamese seem absolutely shocked to hear Vietnamese words coming out of a white person’s mouth. I’ve gotten major mileage out of simple phrases like “Thank you” and “Mmm, tasty” and “I’m full.” If I struggle through even a few words that a native three-year-old could say effortlessly, I am lavished with praise and adoration. And for me, it’s still pretty funny to formulate a question when we’re out and about, then approach a stranger, ask the question, actually be understood … and then realize that I have absolutely no goddamn chance of understanding the response I’ve just solicited.

As you can see from Misou’s pictures, the food here is fantastic. What you can’t see, though, is how convenient and cheap it is. You can call out and have the bột chien lady bring two plates to your door within a couple of minutes, and last night while it was raining we ordered in a couple six-packs of Heineken from a shop up the street … When we bought the vegetarian dinner for us and four of Misou’s relatives, it cost less than $5—and there were tons of leftovers …

Finally, the coffee here is simply the best I’ve ever had. Better than Italy, France, and Bali put together. It is like drinking liquid velvet… but way less disgusting than that would be. It’s made using a small aluminum filter that sits on top of your coffee cup, and often you get a small cup of hot water to add to the expresso-like shot that slowly drips down. I drink coffee made this way every weekend at Misou’s house in Virginia, but Bố (Misou’s stepdad) always uses American coffee. Little did I know what I was missing!

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8 thoughts on “Taste of Vietnam

    1. And to think, we haven’t eaten that many specialty foods yet! “O^’c, nghe^u, so`” 😛 When Matt and Sylvie get here we will go eat “Co*m Nie^u.”

  1. If it’s not too much to ask, could you add prices of the food and etc? I want to know if VN is still cheap or it’s gotten expensive! Also, your aunt’s house is so nice! Making me feel poor in America!

    1. Lily, we’re happy to add prices in future posts. The most expensive meal was from A Buu restaurant, but the rest of the food cost about a $1.50 to $2 per person!

  2. Hi and good afternoon(where i live, it’s 04h00pm now),

    Misou’ aunt’s house, do you mean Co Minh’s house?
    Sorry to ask but after 1975 and ’till i left my country, i was seldom at home(just ask your mum and say my name, she’ll tell you why) then since that time, i’never come back to VN, perhaps one day when i’ll be too old.
    Please send all my congratulations to your uncle on his daughter’s wedding. We got the wedding invitation from his wife but we regret unable to be at the ceremony.
    Have a wondeful time there.

  3. omg!!! too good! I just finished my lunch and still struggling to scroll through the photos. I think I would have died if I read this post when I’m hungry. Ba’nh tra’ng ke.p du*`a and so` du*o*ng nu*o*’ng… oh my… so envy you chi!

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